Tag Archives: Italian

Sunday Meatballs and Gravy

This is a meatball post. But it’s also a Thanksgiving post. You wouldn’t think the two go together right?

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Meatballs and Gravy

My family is celebrating Thanksgiving this year in the Outer Banks. We’ll have two big houses, about 30 adults, and a lot of food. Of course we’re looking forward to the deep-fried turkeys and the corn pudding, but that’s only for one meal, maybe two, if we’re lucky to have leftovers.

But mostly we’re lucky enough to have several amazing meals to look forward to over Thanksgiving weekend. First, let me say, it’s not really about the food. We’re a big happy bunch even eating simple ham sandwiches and potato salad from the grocery store. We’re a big Italian family, so food and family are one in the same. We also happen to be a family where everyone is a great cook and everyone appreciates good food. So the kitchen is really the best place to be during family holidays.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Meatballs and Gravy

One of my favorite dishes that my family shares over Thanksgiving weekend are meatballs. I love my Aunt Lisanne’s recipe in which the meatballs are made with white bread soaked in milk and then baked slowly. We make dozens of them and they’re in the kitchen to grab and make a plate or a sandwich whenever you arrive to the house, are hungry, or just want to keep stuffing your face. Games and reading and crafts and football are happening all around. People are weaving in and out of rooms. “Did you see the basement yet?” But the meatballs anchor us. They’re just part of the family. Part of the rhythm. Grab your plate and pull up to the table and catch up with your cousin or in-law who lives 10 hours away. Belly laugh. Go for seconds.

This is the part of Thanksgiving I’m most thankful for.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Meatballs and Gravy

I’ve talked to a few friends recently about feeling “Sunday sad.” Maybe we get it because the weekend is over and the stress of Monday lurks ahead. Maybe we’ve been running at full speed for the past six days, that when we finally slow down we succumb to feelings we’ve pushed aside. No matter the reason, we should deal with it. And my favorite way to do so, is to make the food that feels like a hug and I’m surrounded by love. That’s Thanksgiving meatballs. That’s Sunday meatballs and gravy.

I have my own more simple and quicker version of my aunt’s meatballs that I love to make early on a Sunday. (There’s almost as good!) Get them made early, leave on stove, take care of other Sunday duties, take care of myself a little, have some meatballs, watch episodes of Scandal, call home, have a little more meatballs, soak up gravy with bread. Feel the love.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Meatballs and Gravy

It goes a little something like this….

In a large bowl combine 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 pound ground beef and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs. Mix gently and form into about 15 balls. In a Dutch oven, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add meatballs, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, then cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Leave on stove on low until ready to eat. Serve with crusty Italian bread and extra Parmesan.

Orange Ricotta Dessert Pizzas

orange ricotta dessert pizzas

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I love Italian desserts and pastries. Cannoli, tri-color cookies, zeppole, a biscotti with my coffee. But one of my absolute favorites is sfogliatelle. The delicate layers and laters of pastry are great, but the best part I think is the ricotta filling with a hint of orange. If you haven’t had one of these, find your local Italian shop and hunt one down. Seriously.

orange ricotta dessert pizzas

So for some reason, I’ve been craving this orange ricotta filling like crazy. And while I’d love to spend an entire day learning how to make sfogliatelle myself, let’s be real…no time for that. But I do have time for a little pizza night. Buying the dough at the grocery store or local pizza shop helps cut some corners and let’s you focus on the creative part.

I also thought pizza dough would be a great vehicle for my orange ricotta fix. I made two little pies, both topped with some slices strawberries, one drizzled in honey and the other drizzled in dark chocolate. I couldn’t tell you which one I liked more. Actually, I was so excited about these dessert pizzas that I ate them before my savory dinner pizza. Oops.

tomato pancetta pizza

(In case you were curious, for my savory pizza, I sautéed some pancetta and tomatoes in olive oil and garlic and spooned that over my dough which was already covered in fresh mozzarella slices. After it cooked, I topped it with some fresh spinach. Yum!)

Ok, but on to the highlight…dessert! Now what can I make next to continue satisfying my orange ricotta craving? Send me your ideas!

orange ricotta dessert pizzas

 Orange Ricotta Dessert Pizzas

  • Pizza Dough (of course store bought is totally fine)
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Orange for zesting
  • Sugar
  • Strawberries for garnish
  • Honey
  • Dark Chocolate, melted

In a small bowl, mix ricotta (about 4 oz for two small pizzas), orange zest (however much flavor you want), and about a tablespoon of sugar. Form small pizza rounds, top with ricotta mixture, and bake on a pizza stone at about 400° for 8 minutes. Top with strawberries, another sprinkle of sugar, and drizzle with either honey or dark chocolate.

(Note: These also would be great on a grill, and maybe that way you’d get the charred marks on the dough that I failed to get in my oven.)

Let’s Make Some Pasta

On Christmas Eve, my brothers and I crowd around our granite kitchen counter at home in New Jersey and make pasta. (They weren’t going to do it this year, but thank goodness I was there to make sure it happened.) My mom learned how to make pasta from my Italian Great Grandmother Alma Pinciotti and my mom taught us three. Family, food, tradition, holiday. All the right ingredients to do something great here.

Pasta from the store just isn’t the same as homemade. When you make it yourself, you can taste both the rough and delicate work you put into making it. It’s so fresh that it melts in your mouth. It’s tastes special and it’s one of my favorite things to eat. Even better with my brother’s tomato sauce that’s been simmering all day long. So, let’s make some pasta.

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Now wasn’t that fun? Now aren’t you hungry? Thanks to my brothers for indulging in my documenting of this process. Those are my older brother’s hands you see in these pictures. Kneading is a workout. I am lucky to have strong co-chefs. If you couldn’t figure it out from the photos, here’s a basic recipe.

Homemade Pasta

  • 4 cups all purpose flour + extra flour for hands and surfaces
  • 5 eggs
  • pinch of salt

Make a well in a mound of your flour on a countertop or cutting board. Crack eggs into well. Sprinkle with salt. With a fork, begin whisking the eggs and slowly incorporating the flour into the wet mixture. Form into two balls. (add a little water if you need to to help it form). Keep your hands and surfaces dusted with flour at all times. Knead balls for 5-10 mintes. Cut balls into 6 parts. Roll to the size of a pancake and bring to the pasta machine. Roll out the dough at a #2 setting. Then twice more through the machine at #4 or #5 settings. When dough is the right size for you, roll up the long pieces into logs. Slice with a knife. Unroll each piece. Boil water. Cook for 3 minutes. Toss with your favorite sauce or just butter, olive oil, and parm.

Pasta Fagioli

pasta fagioli soup italian

I’ve had the great opportunity to travel around Italy a couple of times. But way before then, when I was a kid, I really only had two ideas of what Italy looked like. The first was our downstairs bathroom, in which my mom painted to look like a Tuscan landscape. Sitting on the toilet, I always felt like Medici royalty, gazing out of my pink marble veranda onto a field of cyprus trees and fluffy white clouds with gold flecs that shimmered in the “sunlight”. (I really wish I had a photo to show you! I know it would make this post even better. I’ll try to get one eventually.)

The second Italy image I had was from a restaurant in town called Venezia. Similar to our bathroom, the walls of the Italian restaurant were pained tromp l’oeil, with scenes of magical Venice canals peeking through tall stone pink arches.

We went to Venezia often, but I only remember one item of the menu. Every time we went my dad always ordered this one thing: pasta fagioli soup. Piping hot. Everyone around the table always got a slurp or two under the faux twinkling Italian stars. And it was the perfect pairing of taste and setting, even though we were actually in a strip mall in Chester, New Jersey.

Oh, also, I thought that “pasta faazoooole” was probably the most fun thing to say ever.

pasta fagioli soup italian

So it’s been really cold and I’ve been stuck inside a whole lot. How to remedy this? Well Venezia closed many years ago, and I’m far from my parents’ downstairs bathroom. So instead I made my own big batch of pasta fagioli soup, shared it with my older brother and dreamt of traveling back to Tuscany with my family.

I haven’t had much experience making soup, but after making this beauty I wondered why I don’t make soup every week. Not only did it warm me right up, but the combination of the sweetness of the tomato and saltiness of the pancetta totally transported me to the Italian countryside.

On a related note, always, always cook with pancetta. You can’t go wrong.

pasta fagioli soup italian

Pasta Fagioli (adapted from Shutterbean)

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz. pancetta, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • Bunch of fresh spinach (with the ends removed)
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (15oz. canned)
  • 3 oz. (half can) of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning mix
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups (32oz.) chicken stock
  • 1 15oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dried pasta
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. In a large pot warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, onion and garlic and sauté, stirring until onions are soft. Stir in the spinach and satué until wilted.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, and generous salt & pepper. Continue to simmer for 20 more minutes or so. Add the beans and chicken stock and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  3. Add the pasta to the soup and simmer until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

Serve hot with some crusty bread and don’t forget to sprinkle on a good amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano! This soup is great for lunch the next day, or can be frozen for later.

Roasting tomatoes

when it’s chilly out and you’re spending the day inside…slow roast some tomatoes. It only takes 5 minutes to prep, and then after a few hours, you’ve got beautiful roasted tomatoes.

I used grape tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Preheat oven to about 225°. Cut tomatoes in half, toss with salt, pepper, and chopped garlic, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 3 hours.

These pair well with anything really… I coupled them with some fresh farmer’s market mozzarella and drizzled on some balsamic vinegar. So savory and delicious. And effortless.